Counseling Psychology Degree Overview

Updated August 16, 2022 · 2 Min Read

If you enjoy helping people overcome or manage psychological difficculties, counseling psychology might be the right career for you. Learn how to earn a counseling psychology degree and become a counseling psychologist. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Counseling psychologists apply psychology to advise clients and help them make changes in their lives. A counseling psychology degree can help you work as a therapist or counselor. If you enjoy psychology and helping others, this can be a very rewarding degree to pursue.

Degrees in Counseling Psychology

To be a clinical counseling psychologist, you need a doctoral degree, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. However, a counseling psychology degree can prepare you for other careers in a variety of settings. A counseling psychology degree at the bachelor's level can prepare you to become a counselor. A counseling psychology master's degree allows you to become a therapist or continue on toward a counseling psychology doctorate.

Bachelor's Degrees in Counseling Psychology

Many schools offer counseling psychology bachelor's degrees as well as general psychology degrees, but not all. However, most counseling psychology master's programs accept a general psychology degree, as long as you have taken classes or independent study in counseling.

Whether you choose a general psychology or a counseling psychology degree, counseling psychology education includes topics in psychology research methods, behavioral psychology, personality theory, cognition, neuroscience, psychological assessment, and psychological treatment approaches. You also perform your own psychology experiments and learn how to conduct ethical psychological research.

Many schools offer online, hybrid, or on-campus program options.

Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology

Clinical psychology master's degrees focus on psychology practice, including advanced courses in psychological assessment; in-depth exploration of different types of counseling and therapy; types of treatment, such as group and family therapy; trauma interventions; and providing culturally competent care.

A master of arts program focuses on research, while a master of science program emphasizes preparation for practice. You can specialize in a particular type of treatment or patient. Some counseling psychology master's degrees offer official specializations, while others offer less formal specializations.

Doctorates in Counseling Psychology

To become a clinical psychologist, most states require you to earn a doctorate, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. In general, Ph.D. programs emphasize research, while Psy.D. programs emphasize practice.

Regardless of which counseling psychology doctorate you choose, coursework includes advanced counseling topics, such as assessment and different methods of treatment, and psychological research methods, including advanced statistics.

Your final year involves an internship and preparation to defend a doctoral thesis. During the internship, you work with patients under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Many programs are available in hybrid or online formats.

Online Psychology Bachelor's Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Counseling Psychology

Is a counseling psychologist the same as a counselor?

Each state has different requirements for psychologists and counselors, but in most states, counseling psychologists must hold a doctorate, while counselors may need only a bachelor's or master's degree to be licensed.

Is it hard to be a counseling psychologist?

Counseling psychologists must learn how to be empathetic with clients without allowing themselves to become emotionally drained. The work is demanding, yet very rewarding.

How much do counseling psychologists make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn a median $79,820 annual salary.

Are counseling psychologists in demand?

Demand varies by region, but is often higher in rural areas. The BLS projects a 8% job growth between 2020 and 2030 for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists.

What Does a Counseling Psychologist Do?

Counseling psychologists' work focuses on both assessment and conducting counseling sessions. A typical day might include assessing patients through discussion or performing standardized psychological tests; providing individual, couple, family, or group counseling; and documentation in patient health records.

Counseling psychologists mostly work in private practices but may also work for nonprofit organizations, such as shelters or services for refugees, the military or other federal agencies, hospitals or health systems, or with first responders. They may also work for corporations (full time or as consultants) or for media companies (especially for talk show or reality television producers).

What Else Can I Do With a Counseling Psychology Degree?

Counseling psychology degrees are versatile. Note that different states have different licensing and practice requirements, so be sure to check the regulations for your state.

With a counseling psychology master's, for example, you can become a counselor, but you can also work in other roles where you can apply your knowledge of psychology, such as executive coaching, human resources, organizational development, writing, or journalism and the media. You can earn different certifications, such as school counseling, addiction counseling, or mental health counseling.

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